Although Wikipedia articles on unfamiliar topics tend to appear reasonable and coherent, they are actually authored by only a small subset of individuals. Anyone can edit Wikipedia, which gives the impression that the content on Wikipedia is a cumulation of public knowledge, but the content of Wikipedia is actually a reflection of a particular demographic that skews white, American, and male.
Some white people who are bothered by racism do not know what action to take to erode racism. However, one thing that anti-racist white people can do is edit Wikipedia to counteract edits by white supremacists, which tend to remain unchecked and unchallenged.
Welcome to Activism 2.0, where the keyboard is mightier than the pen.
Wikipedia is systemically biased.
I have been editing Wikipedia since 2004, under different accounts (ethically), with varying levels of intensity. Although the Wikipedian hierarchy confers (administrative) privileges on to early adopters and enthusiastic editors that happen to be of that particular demographic, I tried to reduce the systemic biases by editing.
Correctness was determined by a poll.
I became thoroughly disillusioned with the system when the “Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy” was current, and there was the Wikipedia issue of whether or not to place the controversial caricatures in the article, and at the beginning of the article. Instead of a logical debate about the ethics and propriety of including the arguably Islamophobic and racist caricatures into the Wikipedia article, the resolution was determined by a poll. Of course, white, Western, technologically-inclined men who associate open source software with freedom of speech with fighting “political correctness” overwhelmingly opted to include the image.
(Incidentally, I was not allowed to vote, because by the time I arrived to edit, the poll was closed.)
The Wikipedia article on Racism was edited by white supremacists.
After a long hiatus from editing Wikipedia, when I created a new account Restructure to associate with my blog and started editing again, I found that the increased popularity of Wikipedia did not make the articles any better. In fact, I was saddened to find absurd claims about whites being victims of racial minorities, which were most likely inserted by white supremacists.
For example, in the Racism article there was a special section on Anti-White racism. Within the section, there were many claims about whites being victims of racism by non-whites, and these claims appeared to be supported by citations, since there were superscripted numbers next to them which corresponded to footnotes. However, when I followed the links, I found that the links did not actually support the claim. Apparently, nobody else bothered to verify the links, probably because they assumed that these claims about whites being unfairly targetted were probably true.
When the Wikipedia article claimed that “Islamic attackers” in India targetted “white tourists”, the referenced news article actually claimed that the Bombay attackers targetted “British and American citizens”. When the Wikipedia article claimed that “Islamic attackers” in Egypt targetted “white tourists”, the referenced news article actually claimed that the Luxor attackers targetted “foreigners”, most being Swiss and Japanese. When the Wikipedia article claimed, “In the United States, there have been many attacks against white Americans on the basis of their ethnicity,” the reference was actually a news article about one anti-white attack in Long Beach, California. When the Wikipedia article made claims about anti-White prejudices in the “Muslim world”, the reference was actually a news article about an individual, President Ahmadinejad of Iran.
I removed these unsupported claims from the Wikipedia:Racism article, but it is unfortunate that if it was not for a radical woman of colour who decided to resume Wikipedia editing, such ridiculous, white-supremacist claims would remain unchallenged. Verifying sources like these does not require an advanced understanding of racism and white privilege, only literacy in English, yet there are not enough people who would make the effort.
Activism 2.0: Editing Wikipedia is making a difference.
For better or worse, a Wikipedia article is usually the first result when one Googles a general topic. Although the system is broken in many ways, instead of opting out, the realistic and practical thing to do is to contribute to Wikipedia in tiny ways to counter some of the systemic bias.
How can a white person take action against racism? Become a Wikipedia editor and correct obvious racist falsehoods. Editing Wikipedia is easier than sending a letter to an editor, showing up to a rally, and marching against a cause. If there is something wrong on Wikipedia, fix it directly, and fix it yourself. Real, practical effects are better than self-congratulatory symbolism.*
The internet is serious business now, and it is becoming more influential than print media. Computer-literate youths will Google a general topic and click on the Wikipedia result. If these Wikipedia articles are racist, our children will inherit our racist web culture as established popular culture.
* An example of a useless, symbolic, over-privileged activist event is Buy Nothing Day. Yes, now changing things on the Internet counts as a material effect, while physically participating in Buy Nothing Day is only abstract symbolism.